Ever since the dawn of MTV and Friday Night Videos, the music video has significantly impacted musical tastes and pop culture. It might not be as extreme as when the Buggles declared that "Video Killed the Radio Star", but there is no arguing that the music video certainly could make or break a song's popularity. So this regular Flashback Video feature will serve to remember some of the music videos from the great '80s decade that made an impact on me in one way or another.
This issue we will cover "Karma Chameleon" by Culture Club. It was released as the second single from the band's second album Colour by Numbers in September of 1983. In the UK, it stayed at number one for six weeks and became the UK's biggest-selling single of the year 1983, but the song became an international smash. In the U.S., it reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in February of 1984 and held that spot for 3 weeks while also reaching the top of the charts in at least 11 other countries. Boy George stood out on MTV and the music video helped the band achieve the success it did.
The music video for "Karma Chameleon" was directed by Peter Sinclair who had a little previous experience directing a couple early Dire Straits videos as well as Peter Schilling's "Major Tom (Coming Home)" in 1983. He also had experience as Cinematographer is some popular '80s music videos including Madonna's "Like a Virgin" and "Material Girl" as well as Prince's 1987 film Sign o' the Times. "Karma Chameleon" was shot on a River Boat, set in 1870 Mississippi, although it was actually filmed on the River Thames in England as well as at Desborough Island in Weybridge. Although sort of a period piece, Boy George was certainly not dressed in period attire or hairstyle, though other members of the band were dressed a little more appropriate for the late 19th century. In the video, a pickpocket/thief is seen wandering through the crowd, stealing from unsuspecting victims. The band and everyone board a riverboat, fittingly called The Chameleon, as Boy George continues to sing. While four men are playing poker, the thief is caught cheating and forced to return all his stolen winnings then to walk the plank into the river. I guess this is a way of demonstrating that karma caught up with him for his stealing and cheating ways. As the video ends, day has turned to evening and the party continues on the boat as it cruises down the river. Here is the music video for "Karma Chameleon" by Culture Club...
The video's producer, Siobhan Barron reportedly recalled some issues they had filming the video: It was a very warm hot day, the clouds were gray and we waited and waited for the sun to appear with no such luck. The boat broke down. Smoke wouldn’t come out of the chimneys. Extras got lost on the way to shooting. The extra that played the part of the pickpocket couldn’t even swim, even though he said he could when he applied for the part. That was bad luck for the actor since at the end of the video he is tossed into the water, fortunately, the actor was scared and George said he got his Karma back in return for lying about that he could swim.
Hope you enjoyed another trip back to the '80s thanks to Flashback Video!